Aside

Why I’m Not Qualified To Parent A Teenager

Parenting a teen with technology. It's not an even playing field!
Parenting a teen with technology. It’s not an even playing field!

My daughter just might be ready to call the authorities.

Yes, it’s possible she might turn me in.

Indeed, I must face the facts.

The evidence.

The now undeniable truth—I’m unequipped to be a parent to a teenager.

Unequipped as in technically unequipped.

Technically, as in technology.

Technology as in, Dear Reader, how do you parent a teen when you have no practical life experience with the technology that steers, informs, controls, and inspires a teen brain?

Truth is, this truth, has been a long time coming.

My obvious Can’t Relatedness started when she was a pre-teen, begging her father for a cell phone.

How “Gotcha!” excited she was, the moment she thought she had come up with perfect argument, “Well, how old were you when you got your first cell phone?” she asked me one day.

“Uh,” I thought about it. Did the math. “29,” was my answer.

“29?!” she replied in utter disbelief.

“They weren’t invented before then,” I explained, as she looked at me aghast like Rip Van Winkle, asleep for 100 years, had come to life right before her eyes.

Then, there was the matter of that research paper she needed to work on for her social studies class.

“I bet your teacher let you use Google,” she said so sure that I had things so much easier than she.

“No, we had these things called ‘encyclopedias,’” I explained.

“How did you cut and paste with those?” she wondered.

“No cutting and pasting at the pubic library,” I assured her. “We had to work hard to plagiarize! Had to copy that World Book text word for word by hand!”

Oh the things of my youth I’m so proud of.

Affairs of the teen heart?

Of this, I’m also apparently useless.

“Well, you must’ve broken up with a boy in high school by sending a text message,” my daughter said one day looking for a shred of common ground.

I stared at her blankly.

“Well, you did, right?”

“There was no such thing as text messages when I was in high school,” I confessed.

“Well, email then! I bet you did it using email?” she realized she was now reaching.

“Nope. Didn’t have email back then either.” Oh, this was not going well.

“How’d you do it then?”

“Guess I just waited until the boy rode his horse and buggy over to my house and said what I had to say in person,” I half-joked.

And it’s not just boys. I’ve been told I don’t understand the entire teen communication culture.

“I’ve texted Gina 3 times to do something this weekend and she hasn’t texted me back,” my daughter complained the other day about her non-responsive friend.

“How about, are you ready for this revolutionary idea? —Try calling her.” I suggested.

My daughter looked back at me like I’d lost my mind.

“Like, call her? Like, on the phone?

“Yeah. So simple, yes?”

“That would be so weird!” She dismissed the idea as she dismisses most situations where it would be better to use a phone.

And how many times do I need to tell her not to text me when she knows I’m driving.

“Where r u? When will you be here?” she often texts as I’m on my way to pick her up.

I call her, “Remember what I said about not texting me when I’m driving?”

“Oh, yeah, right. Sorry.” I always know this will be a very quick phone call. For to be seen talking to a parent on the phone while in the presence of her friends, well, it’s almost as bad as being seen with said parent in public.

Dear Reader, is you teen always four steps behind you at the mall like a subservient wife in a strange religious sect? Perhaps, that’s one of those deep meaning of life questions for another column.

Meanwhile, only two things are saving me as flagrantly fail Teen Technology Parenting 101. With the whiz bang, speed-of-light pace that technology is changing, I know when my kid is a parent, things will have changed even more. Oh, I’m going to get a big laugh out of those conversations.

As for her actually calling the authorities to complain about me?  Call me cocky, but I’m feeling a bit more secure there, as well.

After all, that would actually require, deep breath, you ready for this? A phone call. And good gosh, that would be like so totally weird!

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

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